How failing to meet customer expectations can be business suicide

I was recently invited to attend a seminar – ironically on sharing best practice in customer excellence. The content looked really interesting, good for my continuing professional development. The venue looked attractive too. I freed up my diary and I quickly accepted the invitation.

My booking was confirmed. I was excited about attending the event. As a result I encouraged a business colleague to attend as well. We planned to use our time together to see how we can use the seminar’s content to enhance our forthcoming projects. Expectations were set - and were high.

You can imagine how I felt when I received an email about a week or so later saying that I could no longer attend the seminar. The email, with a simple ‘Sorry…’ in the subject heading line, explained that the seminar had been oversubscribed and attendance had been restricted to ‘existing customers’. I was excluded.

The whole experience was overwhelmingly disappointing. On our own excellence in customer service training we empathise the need to create a promise, then at least meet (if you cannot exceed) the expectations that had been set with the goal of creating positive and lasting  memories. This is set out in our easy to remember formula opposite.

My experience certainly failed to go anywhere near meeting expectations. So the memory that was created was ‘OUCH!’ rather than ‘WOW!’. Things were made worse by an inept response to my feedback on the way I felt that I had been treated. Hopeless....

The learning for me is key. Make sure that your customers are clear about your promise. But before doing so make sure that your business processes and people are geared up to delivering the expectations promised. Where possible, look to exceed expectations whenever you can. If you can't, at least meet them. This will make sure your customers’ experiences are remembered for the right reasons – i.e. ‘WOW!’ rather than ‘OUCH!’ so they can be your advocates as well as returning customers.

Raising and then failing to meet customer expectations is clearly bad news. Think about whenever you’ve had a complaint as a customer. I imagine that failing to meet your expectations in either a product quality or service delivery featured somewhere, and may well have ruined your relationship with that brand forever. More 'OUCH!' than 'WOW!' with lasting memories to match.

Paul Beesley, senior consultant, Beyond Theory

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